HIGHLAND VILLAGE, Texas — The U.S. has a history of taking in those who have nowhere else to go. Since the mid-70s, more than three million refugees have come to the United States. In 1980, the number of refugees settling in the U.S. peaked. More than 200,000 refugees came to the U.S. in that year, most having fled Communist Vietnam. Seeking asylum, these vulnerable people are in desperate need of a safe place of refuge. As a global leader, the U.S. is well-positioned to help refugees.
US Refugee Policy
Historically, the U.S. has taken in more refugees each year than the rest of the world combined. Recently, however, the Trump administration tried to reduce this number. In 2017, for the first time in modern history, the U.S. admitted fewer refugees than the rest of the world. Now, three bills in the House could significantly help refugees.
The Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act
The Strengthening Refugee Resettlement Act (H.R. 7401) is one of the proposed bills with the potential to help refugees. Representative Ellison of Minnesota introduced the bill in 2019. The House referred the bill to the Committee on Ways and Means. The Committee then referred the bill to the Subcommittee on Trade. Now, the bill awaits approval. The act has three main goals:
- Create overseas programs to teach English and other workplace skills to admitted refugees
- Provide permanent resident status to particular refugees
- Develop a better system to help qualified refugees access services and benefits
The Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act
The Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act (H.R. 7415) concerns refugees from Hong Kong. Representative Curtis of Utah introduced the bill in 2020. The bill then moved to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Now, the bill awaits further action. If Congress enacts the bill, refugees from Hong Kong will receive priority consideration if they meet the following criteria:
- A Hong Kong resident who has suffered persecution or fears persecution because of peaceful political actions
- A Hong Kong resident who has been charged, detained or convicted for peaceful political action
Additionally, the bill states that the U.S. cannot deny a refugee from Hong Kong entry because a politically motivated government wishes to act against the refugee’s involvement in protests. By welcoming these refugees, the United States protects the U.S. value of free speech.
The Special Envoy for Refugees Act
The Special Envoy for Refugees Act (H.R. 5791) has been in the House since February of 2020. Representative Neguse of Colorado introduced the bill and the House referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary. The Committee on the Judiciary then referred the bill to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. The Act would create a Special Envoy for Refugees. This envoy would have the following roles:
- Represent the U.S. in international conversations and diplomacy regarding migration, worldwide displacement, asylum seekers and other related issues
- Oversee research regarding the U.S. refugee program and the global refugee crisis in general
Help Refugees, Help the Economy
When the U.S. decides to help refugees seeking admittance into the United States, it benefits U.S. citizens too. Refugees play a significant role in the U.S. workforce. Once in the United States, many refugees start businesses. These businesses provide niche skill sets, job opportunities and economic stimulation. Refugees contribute billions of dollars every year to the U.S. economy. Between consumer spending and new businesses, the admission of refugees has a net positive fiscal impact.
The U.S. has the potential to be a great advocate for the underdog. By helping refugees, the U.S. supports vulnerable populations and places itself in a position of leadership.
– Jillian Reese